Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 9/24/08

“Any life that’s worth living is always gonna be just a little bit dangerous.” — Robert Scorpio 

GENERAL HOSPITAL: NIGHT SHIFT‘s season isn’t over yet (and there’s that huge reunion episode waiting in the wings), but I’m still going to go out on a limb and brand the latest installment Best. Episode. Ever. And we owe it all to the timely arrival of Kathleen Noone (ex-Edna, PASSIONS) as Patricia Julian, otherwise known to Leo and Kyle as Momma. 

This week’s episode was awash in emotion and did not hold back the tears. Talk about basic, old-fashioned soap opera! I don’t think NS could have wedged in any more relationship drama anywhere. Patricia’s presence was the catalyst for the brothers to air all their pent-up mutual resentments, inferiority complexes and petty jealousies. Wow, talk about issues! Both of them were “different” in different ways, but Patricia was so bent on loving them equally that she failed to see them as individuals. Robin and Robert had “the talk” they’ve been dancing around for weeks — he copped to his fathering mistakes and suggested that his being stingy with his love and approval are the reason Robin is freezing out Patrick. Seeing Tristan Rogers admit Robert’s flaws with cold-eyed honesty as Robin teared up was a treat for longtime GH fans. 

Right after opening another box of tissues, GH viewers doubtless wondered why these emotionally rich scenes did not play out on the parent show. It’s fitting that Lando Calrissian himself, Billy Dee Williams, is on this show because, as Darth Vader noted, “The student has become the master.” NIGHT SHIFT is showing GENERAL HOSPITAL how to tell soapy stories featuring characters viewers care about. 

And when it comes to interesting characters, Australian actor John Noble is creating quite a compelling one on FRINGE. Dr. Walter Bishop sets the bar high for eccentricity, being by turns loopy, brilliant, callous, tender, disengaged, distracted, cold-hearted and dispassionate. I think of him as equal parts Willy Wonka without the social graces and the Doctor without his moral qualms. In other words, Walter’s nuts — and I really enjoy seeing what outlandish thing he’s going to say or strange contraption he’s going to build next. Who else would self-medicate with homemade psychotic drugs. Blair Brown‘s Nina Sharp is another wacky character — in a much different way than Brown’s neurotic titular character from THE DAYS AND NIGHTS OF MOLLY DODD — but much more confusing. As I’ve said before: What is her deal?Is she working with Broyles and crew or against them? It would appear her Massive Dynamics company does all sorts of unsavory things and then feels bad about it and turns over information about it so the task force can pull the plug. Joshua Jackson‘s Pacey…er, Peter is gradually proving his worth as a bridge to Walter’s world, and this week we got a cryptic hint that his old life has not gone away. One thing has to change about this show: The team needs to investigate a case that doesn’t stem directly from Walter’s old research. This week it was the Ghostnet (a sort of psychic Internet). Weren’t there any other mad scientists back in the day? 

Speaking of “back in the day,” 90210‘s Brenda and Kelly lamented how much high school has changed since their day. Which was kind of funny, since their new show is going out of its way to so closely ape the parent series. The characters and relationships are falling into dreadfully familiar patterns, and the stories are following well-trod paths. “Good girl” Annie is unrealistically good, while perceived “fast girl” Silver wants to take things slow with her new boyfriend. True, I don’t remember Brandon slipping Brenda a condom all those years ago, but I do recall the show making a big deal out of Donna’s…er, innocence. (Innocence being something in wayshort supply in 2008.) My favorite line of the night was Silver’s clueless “What’s an AFTERSCHOOL SPECIAL?” query. Featured parents Harry and Debbie are too cool to get mad, and instead rely on relating to their children — who have been “taught better than that.” If this was 1993, Adriana would have had a drinking problem instead instead of an (implied) pill habit, but Brenda still would have “been there” for her (but as a peer, of course.) The one brilliant innovation is Jessica Walter‘s sublime Tabitha. I’m breathlessly awaiting a shout-out to Play Misty for Me. And if Tabby busts out a boozy story about Clint Eastwood, I will insist she be given her own spin-off immediately.

Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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